May 26, 2013 - John 16.12-15

“Continuing Education”

John 16:12-15

May 26, 2013


12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.


Today is Trinity Sunday.  In most Christian denominations today, the churches will observe Trinity Sunday by focusing on this doctrine which is central to our theology – the Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  We Baptists don’t have mandatory days to observe, and one thing that happens in our tradition is that often, the Holy Spirit and the Trinity often get short changed.  THAT is a shame and should be corrected.


There are many Christians, good Christians, that don’t understand who or what the Holy Spirit is, and what in the world the Trinity is.  Some of them, like an old friend’s girlfriend named Anna, had never heard that Jesus IS God.  She was attending a church thing with us, and she had grown up in the church, but had never heard or understood that God is Jesus, the Holy Spirit and Father.  Jesus IS God.  The Holy Spirit IS God.  The Father IS God.  This is called the Trinity.


In case this is all very confusing to you, don’t panic.  It is.  It is a paradox, a mystery that we cannot understand but yet it is still the nature of God.  Christians are those who believe that God has come to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God did not leave us alone but came to us, reaching out to us, revealing the true nature of God to us. We know what we know of God because God loves us enough to reveal Godself.

Will Willimon once preached a sermon one Sunday on the Trinity,  based on the teachings of St. Augustine.  One student came up to him after the sermon and said, “Do you clergy sorts keep this stuff hidden away, waiting to spring it on us until later after we have already signed up and you have taken our initiation fee?”


I like to think of the Trinity in terms of relationship, just because it helps me understand something of the Trinity, but in no way encompasses all of it.  For instance, I am a Father.  I am also a son.  I am also a husband.  Sort of in the same way, God is Father, God is Son and God is Spirit.


Jesus says, “I have lots of stuff I could tell you, but you can’t bear to hear them right now.”


It is worth noting that the Greek verb here is anangellein, which means to proclaim, preach, declare or announce.  The prefix an- in Greek is equivalent to our English prefix re-, as in report, renew, or rededicate.  SO in other words, the Spirit is going to re-preach, or re-declare to us that which Jesus already has.  The Spirit will not proclaim something to us that is foreign from what Jesus has said and done, but will instead open our eyes and hearts to the things that Jesus has already declared and proclaimed.


The revelation of the Holy Spirit will not be something new, or secret, but rather will be an unfolding in our minds and hearts that which we have already heard but not understood.  Our little constricted minds and hearts will be folded open to a new understanding of the grand and glorious significance of Christ.


In most church budgets, there is a line item somewhere amidst all the stuff for the ministerial staff labeled “continuing education.”  Many professions require this type of thing, too, especially those who rapidly change due to new technologies.  The idea behind this is that in order to stay informed and on top of the game as a professional, education must be a career priority.  Education must be an ongoing thing, or else one becomes obsolete and irrelevant.  Even if the message is the same, such as it is for preachers, we must remain educated about the world in which we live, and the trends in it, and how to relate to them, or our preaching becomes obsolete.


The same thing is true for us as Christians.  The Holy Spirit intends to continually educate us as to who Jesus is, revealing new things to us, engaged in a never ending faith journey with us, so that we will always be growing, changing, and living out our relationship with Jesus.


Conversely, if we take the idea that “I know what I know and that’s all I need to know,” then we have proven we don’t know much about Jesus.  Knowing Jesus means being engaged in a long term relationship with a real live Savior, and we will always find ourselves being challenged, changed and remade to look more like Jesus.  If we aren’t changing, we aren’t walking with Christ.


I remember in college, I knew this guy who was a real partier, and then he met a really BEAUTIFUL Christian girl named Donna, and then the next thing we knew, he was running around shouting “I found Jesus!”  But as we listened to him talk and watched him over the next few weeks, it seemed like he thought “I got Jesus.”  As if he had discovered all there was to know about Jesus and was ready to set everybody straight.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not faulting his enthusiasm, or his energy or his conversion.  Not one bit.  But, he would have to plead guilty to arrogance.  I wanted to tell him, “Paul, you are just beginning to grow as a Christian.  There is a lot you don’t know.”


Is there anything more exasperating than someone trying to “get you saved again?”  Do you know what I am talking about?  In one of the towns where I used to live, there is this really energetic, young pastor that got saved about 6 years ago, as an adult, then got called to preach.  He’s very fiery and all.  Well, he would go up and down Main Street asking all the shop owners if they were saved.  Now, that is great.  Don’t get me wrong.  But the man doesn’t take yes for an answer.   One friend of mine, Mike, had a conversation with him that went something like this:

“Brother Mike, are you saved?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Brother Mike, are you sure?”

“Yes, I am sure.  I asked Jesus in my heart as a young’un, backslid some there in my youth, got right with God again and me and God are real close.  In fact, I just got elected as a Deacon in my church for the first time.”

“Well, Brother Mike, I know a lot of deacons that ain’t saved.”

“Well…I am saved and very happy about it.”

“Brother Mike, let’s have a prayer just in case.”


There is a word they use in college to describe students in their second year.  The word is sophomore.  The word sophomore means “wise fool.”  It means, whether fair or not to actual sophomores, that these students have been through their first year and now they think they know it all.  They have not learned nearly enough, but have learned just enough to make them dangerous.


Too many Christians are Sophomoric Christians.  They never venture beyond a skimming it off the top mentality, and insist that there is really nothing more important to discover.   Lord, deliver us from sophomoric Christians.


The truth of Jesus is too large, too grand, and too cosmic to be grasped in a moment.  This is why discipleship is a journey, why we talk of our “walk of faith.”  The Spirit reveals to us all that we need to know, when we need to know it, and not before.  We must be ready for insights that are fresh and new to us, though as ancient as Creation itself, for the work of the Spirit of Truth continues among us.


Just as exasperating as it is to have a sophomoric Christian berate you for not being saved to their liking, it is as equally exasperating to run into an ancient Christian who claims there is nothing new under the sun.  “Boy, I been a member of this church here since Strom Thurmond was on the cradle roll, and we ain’t never done it that way before.”  While I do not doubt that such people have never done it that way before, I doubt that such a stance will survive long in a world that needs us to find new ways to reach new people with the eternal gospel.


One of the roles of the Spirit is as ongoing teacher for the church.  Verse 13 states that the Holy Spirit will “declare to you the things that are to come.”  This is in some ways a frightening promise, for it can be quoted to bless every new notion and to footnote with supposed authority all manner of behavior as well as prophesies as to the fate of the world, the time of the Eschaton, and the certain will of God in every crisis.


The Spirit quickens the community’s sensitivity to the revelation already given in Jesus rather than uncovering unheard-of data.  Our scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit will not act independently, but rather will glorify Christ and reveal only that which comes from Christ and from God.  Therefore, we have a way to test each new fad, new notion, or new direction sent to us from the world or our denomination:  Are the actions and words in accordance with what we know of God and Jesus Christ?  That is why we Baptists have always upheld the idea that Jesus is the sole criterion by which we interpret scripture.


Christians don’t believe in God the way that the world believes in god.  That is, there are some really nice, sincere folks out there that will tell you, “well, I am a protestant, and you are a Buddhist, but the main thing is that we all believe in God.”  Those folks are not right.  Our God has a face – Jesus.  Our God has very distinct personalities – the Trinity.  Our God comes to us in very distinct, observable ways that define God’s identity.  We can’t make this God mean just anything we like.  God is real and alive as is his Spirit.


One of the greatest fallacies that I was taught as a child was that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America.  He discovered it?  Really? It turns out there were 14 million people already living here – it seems silly to claim it was undiscovered.


I remember one day when I was in Seminary in Kansas, telling my wife that I had “discovered” the Psalms.  I was taking a class in the Psalms, required to read all 150 of them in 7 different translations.  Now, I am not for a minute saying that I “discovered” the Psalms.  That is a silly thing to say after one had already become a pretty astute student of the Bible.  What I meant by that was after 30 years of reading Scripture and over 20 years of following Jesus, I had just found out how vital the Psalms could be and how relevant they are to a contemporary life.  It wasn’t the Psalms that were new, it was the way the Holy Spirit was speaking to me through the Psalms.


Our God has loved us enough to reveal Godself to us.  Our God keeps speaking to us in ways that are both distinct and demanding.  In an “age of the spirit”, when what passes for spirituality is often a vague, indistinct projection of our human wishes and infatuations, Trinity Sunday is a good time for the church to be reminded of the distinctive identity of God, whom we have been taught to name as the Trinity.  That name is a gift.  And it is one of the most demanding, difficult, blessed, revealing, wonderful gifts God has given to us.


Do you want to discover God again?  Do you want to rediscover Jesus and a real presence in your life?  Do you want, or do you have the courage to try and discover the things the Holy Spirit wants to teach you?  Respond to the prodding of the Holy Spirit this morning if you want to discover the kind of life you are missing.



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